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language: Divehi President: Mohamed Nasheed
Republic of Maldives
Only 10% of the
land is estimated to be cultivable. Millet,
corn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, pineapples,
sugarcane, almonds, and many kinds of tropical
vegetables and fruits are successfully grown,
largely in homestead gardens. Coconut palms
provide copra and coir, the most important
exports after fish. Virtually all rice, a staple
food for the population, must be imported.
Breadfruit, mangoes, papayas, limes, bananas,
pumpkins, watermelon, taro, and chili peppers
are also valuable crops. As of 1999, small
amounts of corn, millet, and sorghum were
cultivated. Production in 1999 included 12,000
tons of coconuts and 2,000 tons of copra.
The Maldives is made up of a chain of nearly 1,200 islands, most of them uninhabited, which lie off the Indian sub-continent.
None of the coral islands measures more than 1.8 metres (six feet) above sea level, making the country vulnerable to a rise in sea levels associated with global warming.
A former political prisoner, Mohamed 'Anni' Nasheed was elected in the Maldives' first multi-party presidential elections in October 2008, ending President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's 30-year autocratic rule.
President Nasheed: Won islands' first democratic elections
After falling short of an absolute majority in the first round, Mr Nasheed united opposition support in the run-off winning 54% of the vote to Mr Gayoom's 46%.
Mohamed Nasheed had long been at the forefront of efforts to push Mr Gayoom towards democratisation, organising the Maldives' main opposition party while exile in Britain.
Before seeking refuge abroad, he was repeatedly jailed for his political activities, and says he was tortured twice while in prison.
He returned from the UK to the Maldives in 2005, after parliament voted to lift a ban on political parties.
After the election, the new president promised a "smooth transition to
democracy" and more freedom, as well as action to combat corruption, widely seen to have flourished in decades of authoritarian rule.
He has insisted he will not bring corruption charges against his predecessor, saying the way Mr Gayoom is treated will be a "test of our democracy".
A new constitution ratified in August 2008 contained provisions for separating the country's executive and legislature and enshrined a bill of rights. It also provided for the country's first multi-party presidential elections to take place.
The challenges facing the new president also include threats to the largely tourism-based economy posed by the global credit crisis, a widespread drugs problem and growing radical Islamist activity.
Born in 1967, Mr Nasheed was educated in Sri Lanka and Britain, and has a degree in maritime engineering.